Chelimo silences doubters

Joining the cream. Chelimo upgraded from finishing last at the Tokyo 2020 Games to claiming the bronze. PHOTO / AFP

What you need to know:

  • The 20-year-old powered to his first senior medal in a season best time of 13 minutes and 10.20 seconds behind champion Norwegian Jakob Ingebrigtsen and Kenyan Jacob Krop.

Very few or none gave a chance to Oscar Chelimo in the tough field for the 5000m final at the Oregon World Athletics Championships in the early hours of yesterday.

But the youngster defied odds with a stellar performance and beat a classy field to the bronze medal as the 18th Worlds concluded at the Hayward Field.

The 20-year-old powered to his first senior medal in a season best time of 13 minutes and 10.20 seconds behind champion Norwegian Jakob Ingebrigtsen and Kenyan Jacob Krop.

“I have done it, I am very happy,” a thrilled Chelimo said as beads of sweat rolled down his face.

Ingebrigtsen, who had claimed 1500m silver five days prior, secured his first world title in a time of 13:09.24 while Krop got his first major medal in 13:09.98.

Olympic champion and world record holder Joshua Cheptegei finished in an unusual ninth place in 13:13.12sec.

Uganda finished the 18th Worlds on the US west coast with three medals, the biggest tally at a single edition.

Cheptegei had won the gold while Jacob Kiplimo got the bronze in the 10000m on July 17. Of all medals collected by Uganda, Chelimo was the least expected.

“To be a champion needs patience. I have been patient for a very long time,” he said. “You remember last year what happened. A lot of people were saying I would not make it. But I’m thankful to those who said to me ‘Never to give up’. And I’m very happy, I give glory to God.”

On Thursday, Chelimo came from eighth position with 250m left to win Heat 1 and spoke confidently about winning a medal. Three days later, he produced a final lap of 55.14sec to move from eighth at the bell to win bronze.

“I prepared for it. Nowadays, if you want to win a medal, you must prepare for the last 400m or the last 160m,” he said.

Turning point

Last August, Chelimo came last in the 5000m final at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics which Cheptegei won. The result, however, became his turning point.

“After Tokyo, I was very confused and my coach (Guiseppe Giambrone) told me to go to Italy.

“Then we had a meeting for almost four hours and he told me: ‘You are the champion. You will be the champion, never give up. You are still young.’ So I listened to my coach.”

Yesterday, Chelimo was quite patient. In a field with star Ethiopians Olympic 10000m champion Selemon Barega, 2019 world 10000m silver medallist Yomif Kejelcha and title holder Edris Muktar, Ingebrigtsen and Canadian Mohammed Ahmed, Cheptegei led after the gun.

They crossed 800m in 2:05.22 but Chelimo, Ingebrigtsen and the Ethiopians remained at the back of the pack.

However, Krop was following in third at 1000m and through 1300m in 3:24.49. At 1500m, Krop and Nicholas Kipkorir took over from Cheptegei.

“It was a little fast, then they reduced it so it was confusing. They pushed almost 3000m, then they reduced. Then it was also a good opportunity for other people,” Chelimo noted.

It was not until the halfway stage that Ingebrigtsen started to move, coming up to fourth place. At 2500m, the European record holder picked a drink to counter the humidity and so did Cheptegei.

Kipkorir and Krop led in brief spells and with two laps left, the Ethiopians came out as Ingebrigtsen led for the first time.

Cheptegei had fallen further back to sixth place and the Norwegian was unstoppable after the bell, Krop hanging onto second while Chelimo kicked home in lane 3 to beat Ahmed to bronze.

MEN’s 5000m FInal results
1.Jakob Ingebrigtsen    NOR    13:09.24
2.Jacob Krop     KEN    13:09.98
3.Oscar Chelimo     UGA    13:10.20
9.Joshua Cheptegei     UGA    13:13.12